By Invitation | Future Ready

Boeing’s KC-46A tanker is more capable, efficient and versatile compared to others

Jim Eisenhart

Today’s refueling tankers look and perform quite differently than the tankers of the past. Modern tankers not only take advantage of the latest innovations in technology and combat capability, but also perform a variety of roles in addition to aerial refuelling.

KC-46

At the top of the list is Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker. The KC-46 is ushering in a new era of efficient combat aerial refuelling. With the US Air Force (USAF) on the verge of receiving its first tanker aircraft and Japan announcing the programme’s first international customer, other countries are taking a closer look at the KC-46’s unique capabilities and the benefits of adding a more capable and versatile tanker to their fleets.

The USAF is very excited about the KC-46 and the benefits it will bring to the fleet - it will be an outstanding aircraft for decades to come. Highly reliable and efficient, the wide-body, multi-role tanker can refuel all the US, allied and coalition military aircraft any time, on any mission. It can also carry passengers, cargo and patients whenever and wherever needed. With unmatched operational flexibility, the KC-46A is a mobility ‘game changer’.




USAF Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, recently commented that the KC-46 is ‘ready to take the next step’ and commended the Boeing men and women who ‘work every day to deliver game-changing capability to the warfighter’.

On 27 January 2017, the USAF awarded Boeing a USD2.1 billion contract for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft. The order was the third low-rate initial production lot for Boeing. The first two came in August 2016 and included seven and 12 planes respectively.

Currently, Boeing has six aircraft conducting test flights. Those aircraft have completed more than 2,000 flight hours to date and successfully refueled with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, KC-10, C-17 and A-10 aircraft. The KC-46A also has demonstrated the ability to receive fuel in-flight from another tanker, which adds increased flexibility to air forces who will be operating it.

The KC-46 is the ideal tanker for today’s modern defence forces based on the following factors:

  • The KC-46 is built as a combat tanker from day one: The KC-46 is delivered with a robust suite of defensive systems and self-protective measures. It is electromagnetic pulse-hardened for missions in a nuclear environment for the high-end fight as well as incorporates flight-deck armour for protection against small arms. Additionally, the KC-46 is equipped with chemical-biological protective systems. All of these systems are incorporated into the aircraft as it is being produced, not as a retrofitted modification. The KC-46 also has the ability to launch from a ‘ready state’ within 10 minutes and coupled with its threat awareness and avoidance system, allows the Pegasus to truly fuel the fight.
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